Outside temperature is -5C/23F so I'm browsing the news tonight.
Some time ago, so long ago I haven't been able to find it, I mentioned one of those experiments where one person wears virtual reality goggles, and someone else has cameras linked to those goggles. The effect is that the person with the VR goggles has the sensation of seeing themselves from outside their body and actually feels as though they are outside their body. At the time, it was touted as proof that out-of-body experiences don't happen. That they are illusion.
My response was that it proved nothing of the kind. It proved only that the sensations reported by those who claim out-of-body experience (OOB) can be replicated using technology. Nothing more. It had no bearing on OOB, ghosts, the soul, nothing. It was just a clever technological illusion. Well, I thought no further about it.
It's come up again, and this time I've thought about it some more (they're not making silly claims so I've been able to read it more calmly).
The report says that those who experience this artificial OOB effect report a sense of ownership of the body they 'inhabit' through the illusion. That it becomes theirs, even if it's someone of a different race and/or gender, or even a plastic dummy. The researchers plan to use it to attempt to treat sufferers of anorexia and bulimia, to correct their body image. Worth a try. It might work, it might not, but at least it's not drugs.
However, it made me think. If the mind can be so easily disconnected from the body, why is nobody apparently following up the implications of that? From where I'm standing, it has some pretty big implications.
Okay, I'm biased because of my particular interest but even so, the implications are there. A readily disconnectable mind/body pair suggests firstly that they might well be separate things (something psychology and neuroscience have been known to fight over) and secondly, that they are not particularly firmly connected in the first place.
So, rather than debunking OOB, these experiments increase the possibility that there is something real happening in those reports. It also puts the credibility of ghosts, the soul, and even (whisper it) religion up a notch. The sceptics will scoff, but let them.
In these experiments, the brain does not leave the body. Neither does the mind, if you'll allow me the assumption that these are separate things for the sake of this argument. This is not an OOB, it's just an illusion. The mind is not transferred into the other's body. All that happens is that sensory input from one person goes to another person's mind. No telepathy, no ghostly wandering, no Ka, no soul, just wires. This experiment doesn't prove or disprove anything supernatural--it wasn't intended to--but it does suggest another possible line of research.
What is interesting is that one person's mind can so readily accept that it is in a place other than in its own body. There is no resistance. There is no screaming madness at the 'wrongness' of it. It's just accepted and the recipient of the illusion genuinely feels as though they are in another body. Just like changing into a new and unfamiliar suit of clothes: they feel a bit odd at first but you soon get used to them.
I have no personal experience of OOB's and no religious agenda so I don't seek to convince anyone of the reality of those things. I have yet to be absolutely convinced myself. However, if the mind can accept that it is apparently outside the body and not find that situation uncomfortable, doesn't that at least make you wonder why?
Why would the mind be so capable of dealing with that?